Doing More Than Just Rocking Out in Myanmar - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Doing More Than Just Rocking Out in Myanmar

By OZY Editors


Because he’s screaming not only at his fans during a performance — he’s also screaming at the government.

Kyaw Kyaw, age 26, is a punk rocker, former monk, and aggressive musical activist in Burma.

But his dad still doesn’t like his clothes. 

The son of a policeman, Kyaw Kyaw, a Yangon resident, is a singer and songwriter in the punk band Rebel Riot, which he founded in 2007. He rages daily against the government that employs and supports his father. 

“I cannot change the world or Burma, but I can shake up the people around me,” he says from his one-room, $120-a-month flat, which he shares with two other 20-something roommates. A cockroach crawls along the wall. He sprays white color on it to make it invisible.

Kyaw Kyaw objects mostly to the monk Ashin Wirathu, who implies that the Muslims endanger Buddhism and Burma itself.

In 2011, a process of democratization began in Burma. The military dictatorship transferred into a civilian government that mainly consists of members of the old elite. Deadly clashes between Buddhists and Muslims continue every day. Those in power tolerate it.

The radical movement of a group of Buddhist monks, “969,“ wants to make Burma a Muslim-­free zone. Kyaw Kyaw objects mostly to the monk Ashin Wirathu, who implies that the Muslims (accounting for 4 percent of the population) endanger Buddhism and Burma itself. Wirathu doesn’t stand alone in these beliefs. The nation seems increasingly willing to accept them as givens.

“They make the Muslims a scapegoat to distract from other problems,” says Kyaw Kyaw. 

Kyaw Kyaw left school at age 16. At school, he had witnessed the military government’s attitude toward the educational system. He had watched schools being left to deteriorate due to the government’s fear of student riots and of the criticism of an intellectual elite.

Today, he earns money by selling handmade punk clothes, jewelry and CDs on roadsides.

Man with pink hair jumping in air without shoes looking into camera during the day

Engl.: Asia, Burma, Myanmar, Kyaw Kyaw jumping in front of a temple in Bagan, punk, young man, 15 July 2013

Man without shirt in middle of room with lots of bottles, writing on walls, mat on floor playing the guitar

Kyaw Kyaw playing guitar, singer of the punk band Rebel Riot, flat, punk, young man, 22 June 2013

Man singing into microphone with band members behind him

Kyaw Kyaw, singer of the punk rock band Rebel Riot, in a recording studio in Rangoon. He takes on a new song,

Man lying on car seats in middle of room with blue walls and records on them

Kyaw, singer of the punk rock band Rebel Riot, takes a break in a recording studio in Rangoon, 07.21.2013

guitarist and drummer playing their instruments in blue walled studio

The Rebel Riot punk band rehearsing in a studio in Rangoon, Zarni on drums, Oakar plays guitar, 29.06.2013

Man seated on floor at right with woman at left both eating

Kyaw Kyaw having lunch with his mother, punk, young man, 29 June 2013

Man at stall that has red awning that says FUCK RACISM speaking to woman with baby

Myanmar, Kyaw Kyaw before his stall in Yangon, in which he himself designed sells punk clothing, jewelry and CDs.

Man holding bag wearing black with pink hair giving a man who is lying on the ground some food

Kyaw Kyaw distributing food to poor people in the context of the project

Few punkers at left giving food to woman at right smiling

Myanmar, every Monday takes place the action Food not Bombss. Kyaw Kyaw meets after closing his punk shop with friends, to distribute donated food to the homeless in Rangoon, 01.07.2013

Man sitting on floor with eyes closed meditating with woman on left looking on

Kyaw Kyaw meditating at the Shwedagon Pagoda, punk, young man, 21 July 2013

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